January 19, 2001
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. Did you expect the game to go for so long?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I expected a tough match and I -- there's no question that I got one. It was definitely tough conditions, it was warm today. I felt like things were in control, 6-3, 2-love, got a little bit careless. Let him back in the match. You can't afford to do that. He got some confidence, he got some momentum over the next couple of sets. From that point I just had to fight real hard to get back into the fifth and the conditioning definitely was a factor. We both were feeling it in the fifth but I can only kick myself a little bit for letting my game slip a little bit. You just can't afford to do that.
Q. Did you ever feel worried or under a real threat? Or did you always have it under control?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you're down two sets to one in pretty hot conditions, it's -- I can only think of the tennis that I was playing, the careless tennis I was playing the second to let him back in the match. Being two sets down to one, I've been down and out in that situation, you just try to hang in there, hopefully get a break. He got a little bit tight there at 6-5, I played a good fifth. But the conditions weren't easy. The ball was flying a little bit more today because of the heat. It was a good, hard-fought match. Definitely, those first three matches -- I'm definitely earning my paycheck this week.
Q. What is your impression of Chela?
PETE SAMPRAS: Very talented. I was impressed the way he was returning serve and passing and serves pretty well, and definitely someone that's going to have a good future in the game.
Q. By the way, he said you're still his idol.
PETE SAMPRAS: That's nice to hear. I wish he would have let me -- you know, won straight versus five. But... He was nice enough to let me get back in the fifth there. So he, you know, it's always difficult, I've never seen him play. Obviously I've never played him. So it's a little difficult seeing a new game. But as you're out there, you just try to figure it out the best you can.
Q. Barry Flatman, Daily Express London. With the medical condition you now admit to having, when you come down here, is it a case of opening the windows of the hotel and thinking, "Oh, no, it's a hot one today?" Does that go through your mind?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, when it's been a pretty cool week and all of a sudden you have a hot day, you really can't prepare for it. I thought I felt pretty good in the fifth. I felt like my legs were -- it was hot. We both were feeling it. So I do have a bit of a condition that I recently, last couple of years, I've taken some supplements to kind of equalize it. It's, you know, whenever you come down here, Melbourne weather can be 75 one day and 110 the next. You just go out there and do the best you can.
Q. You mentioned you hadn't played him before. He's got a fairly interesting service action. Did you find that difficult to read, and how were you trying to read it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, a little bit difficult at the start. Then I got used to it after a little while. Kind of unorthodox but very effective. He was serving some big aces, kind of had a second serve that was tough to come in on. He was jamming it a little bit. But everyone's motion's a little bit different. Just takes awhile to get used to it. I got used to it okay.
Q. What were you specifically sort of looking at to get used to it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you just look at the ball toss, the body motion and, you know, just try to figure on it out. Always lean in a certain direction when you play guys that serve well. But he served pretty well. It was hard to get a pretty good read on it.
Q. After a long match in the first few rounds, can you feel at one point of a tournament something like in the semifinal, the French Open in '96?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah. I mean, I've had a pretty tough draw. I've gotten through some tough matches and played a lot of tennis. Physically I feel like I'm coming through these matches pretty well. You know, '96 I went into Roland Garros not having played anything on clay, not really in the best of shape. I ran into a hot day, lost 6-love, kind of hit the wall. But I feel like I'm pretty fit here and hopefully I can get through it.
Q. (Inaudible) He was telling us on a hot day the balls bounce higher on clay. Do you feel these conditions are more of an advantage to serve and volleyers or baseliners?
PETE SAMPRAS: Depends on your shot. Someone like Chela who has a big heavy toss, on this court with these conditions, with these balls it kicks up pretty good. It's tough to get control of the point. But a good kick serve, like a Rafter, is going to bounce up very high. This court definitely can change speed with the weather, you know, I think we all know that. When you play at night it's cooler, doesn't bounce quite as high. Where today it was bouncing much higher. It's an adjustment that whenever you come down here you just expect to have hot days. It's kind of a different tournament.
Q. You've had to struggle, as you said, for the first few matches. But you've managed to win. How close to your peak do you feel?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there's definitely some room for improvement. I think I can be a little bit more on top of my game. When I'm up a break like I was today in the second, I just can't play careless tennis. These guys aren't going to go away. So the first two guys I played were, you know, playing at a high level. I thought he played at a high level today and just kind of gutsed it out. I'm still in the tournament. I've always had this belief that I can get my game going at the right time. Obviously, a tough opponent in Todd Martin, so it just gets tougher and tougher.
Q. You sat down at the end of, I think it was in the fourth set.
PETE SAMPRAS: Beginning of the fifth.
Q. Yeah. Obviously it was just the heat that was getting to you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It was hot. I mean I definitely was, you know, played a lot of tennis coming into this match, and, you know, there's certain points where you just -- it wasn't too breezy out there, you didn't have a lot of relief. It was hot. I mean this court definitely felt like I was playing on hot coals. And, you know, you just try to get as much fluids and try to keep, you know, your body temperature down in the changeovers. At that time, being in the fifth, we both were feeling a little bit, and just trying to hang on there.
Q. Did you feel 100 percent in the match today? At times you looked like you were -- like it was just a little hot or you were struggling out there?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, in the fifth I think it's -- I felt fine until the fifth. I started feeling a little bit. But like I said, you just hang in there, conserve a little energy at the right time, and, you know, thank God I've got my serve to kind of get me through some cheap points and quick points. It's nice to have that weapon.
Q. What would you rate your three performances so far out of ten?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think with the level of competition I'm playing, I feel pretty good. I feel like I can play better. The Kucera match I thought was a well played match and Ulihrach when I'm up a set and a break or up a set and a break, it's a time when I turn it up a notch. I'm disappointed that I'm not closing out these guys and letting these guys get back into the match and grow with confidence. Before I know it, I'm in a dogfight. Just got to, you know, be a little bit more on top of my game when I'm up, like I was today. And I could have been 6-4, 3-love, could have won in straight sets. But, you know, I just kind of let it slip away a little bit.
Q. You now played three tough matches with the heat and all. The hours you spent on the court, do you still think you can win this tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, any time I'm still in the tournament I feel like I kind of get my game going at the right time, the second week of a Slam historically is when I play my best. But physically, it's, you know, I play a lot of tennis. Fortunately I have these days off to recover and get ready for Sunday. I just know I can get it going a little bit better.
Q. If you compare with Andre Agassi, for instance, the one you can meet in the quarterfinals, he didn't spend a lot of energy yet.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, he's breezed through his matches. That's always an advantage when you get into the later rounds and your legs are a little bit fresher. You know, I got a tough opponent in Todd. I'm not thinking that far ahead. But, you know, to have a first week of playing pretty easy matches, it's always nice.
Q. Sandy Harwitt, you said you feel like you're earning your paycheck. Yesterday Yevgeny said he thinks the paychecks are a little thin in the sport. I'm wondering if you're dissatisfied with the money?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think we're all overpaid. You know, I mean --.
Q. A voice of reason.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean we play a sport, and we get paid very well. I'm not complaining about the prize money. I don't play for the prize money. I play for the titles. Yevgeny definitely plays every week, so you know what he likes. (Laughter.) But, you know, I'm here for the title. I mean the prize money's insignificant in my eyes.
Q. You've been playing in Australia for many years now. If you look at the development at this Australian Open regarding the crowd, the atmosphere, the organization, do you see any improvement?
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah. I mean with the second court that they built and the retractable roof, it's very impressive. I mean they've definitely stepped up. The organization, the crowds are huge, a lot of support through the media. I never played Kooyong, but I hear from the past players, this site and this tournament is a step up. So it's nice to be a part of it.
Q. Chris Jones, Evening Standard. Given it's Todd, it's going to be a grind. Was today a good preparation for you, knowing what's going to come next?
PETE SAMPRAS: I played Todd I don't know how many times, maybe 20. I have pretty good results against him. I think as far as the conditions and see what it's like on Sunday, if it's kind of a cool day, I think we'll both play better. If it's hot, it can be flying all over the place. It's definitely a good test to see where I'm at. I've had to work hard to get to this point, so -- but Todd's, he's got the big serve and great returns. Those are two shots in tennis that it's nice to have and we're both recently married, so... (Laughter.) We'll swap photographs. So we're newly weds so we're both pretty happy about it.
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